Written by Cody Luebeck, TruNorth Solar’s Solar Ambassador
The solar industry in Minnesota has experienced a boom in recent years. Thanks to various rebate and incentive programs, solar has become affordable for Minnesotans. However, home and business owners have faced solar hurdles such as financing, low net-metering rates and solar site restrictions with the existing programs. With the recent Clean Energy Jobs Bill passed earlier this year, Minnesotans now have a “menu” of options making their solar installation easier than ever! The menu of options include: Solar Rewards Rebates, Made in Minnesota Rebates (MIM), a Value of Solar Rate (VoS), Solar Thermal Rewards, and Community Solar Gardens. Saddle up solar enthusiasts as we walk you through what will become the landscape of solar incentives for the next 7 years!
First on the menu is the continuation of the popular Solar Rewards Program. We believe there will be $5 MILLION dollars available each year for the next 5-7 years. The new program allows for customers of Xcel Energy to be reimbursed for the system’s production every year for ten years. With Xcel running the program, customers will see not only a smaller electric bill every month, but also a rebate check for the next 10 years based on production! The program will enable East and West facing solar arrays to be incentivized for the first time in Minnesota. In order to take advantage of this program, the best option is to give TruNorth Solar a call and have them keep you posted as the program becomes available sometime in early 2014 as applications must be approved before starting construction. Our solar installations include all incentive handling so you don’t have to waste your time learning the incentive application process!
Made in Minnesota (MiM)
The second option of financing tools is a new program called Made in Minnesota, or MiM. The MiM program is run through the Minnesota Department of Energy Resources and is available to any customer in an Investor Owned Utility (IOU) territory (largely Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Ottertail). This program is all about jobs! It is intended to lower the cost of Minnesota made solar products and increase jobs in solar manufacturing supply chains, solar manufacturing, design engineering, installation and all the miscellaneous jobs created when a solar array is installed. This program is available starting January 1, 2014, and includes $15 MILLION dollars for solar electric systems. Professional system design and installation are requirements for this program. The MiM program is an excellent option for your commercial flat roof and there will likely be a residential carve out for the dollars spent. Take advantage of this program by asking TruNorth Solar how you can enter the lottery process Jan 1 2014.
Value of Solar Rate (VoS)
Another part of the new legislation is establishing a Value of Solar (VoS). The VoS is a rate that includes all of the environmental and financial benefits of a solar installation. What is the value of not burning coal and oil to create electricity? What is the value of eliminating high cost infrastructure upgrades like high voltage transmission lines or more power plant upgrades? The VoS Rate will put a true value on all those benefits received by the utility company when a solar system is installed. The VoS rate does two things for Minnesotan’s: 1. It allows for a guaranteed rate of return for the next 20 years of production of a solar system and 2. The VOS rate encourages lending from financing companies so you can install solar at little to no up-front cost. The rate methodology will be announced in the Fall of 2013, and adoption by utility companies as early as the start of 2014.
Solar Thermal and Air Heat
A fourth opportunity for capturing solar energy for your home is with a solar thermal or air heat system. Solar thermal refers to a system that utilizes the sun’s energy to heat water to a temperature around 120F, thus reducing the natural gas or electricity needed for domestic hot water use. Solar air heat refers to the sun’s energy being used to heat air inside an enclosed panel, then pumping that heated air into a home. Both styles of systems will be able to enjoy up to 25% off the entire system cost under the new legislation. The program is run though the Department of Energy, and applications will be available starting in the beginning of 2014.
Community Solar Gardens
The last option available for solar is a new program called Community Solar Gardens. This program allows ANYONE to now utilize solar energy, even if you don’t have or can’t have a system. Here is how it works: a group of customers pool their money together and decide to purchase solar. Then, using the power of bulk purchasing, they buy a system at a much lower cost per person than individual rooftop systems. The system is then installed at a site ideal for solar, such as an open field or large industrial rooftop, creating the maximum output of the system. Each customer then sees a credit on their utility bill for the percentage of the system they own! Solar without the system! This program is planned to be available in the Spring 2014 and will be open for Xcel Energy customers first.
The days of clean solar energy are here, and the Clean Energy Jobs Bill accelerates Minnesota to the national forefront for solar energy. Now, every Minnesotan can achieve energy independence, creating a better world for future generations. Remember, “Its not what you do, it’s why you do it”
Please feel free to contact us with any questions at TruNorthSolar.com, or email me at CLuebeck@TruNorthSolar.com. As always, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to learn more about clean solar energy!